The Elusive Prefix V- in Verbs of Motion

Alina Israeli, LFS, American University and Valentina Zaitseva, University of Virginia

So far attention has been given to the prefix opposition PO-/PRI- (Grenoble 1991, Israeli 2002) in verbs of motion (VOM). The invitational opposition of Vxodite! / Zaxodite! / Proxodite! was examined in (Zaitseva 2002). This paper will focus on prefix V- and explain why (1) and (2) below are impossible, give a more precise definition of the prefix and the type of event it describes and the oppositions it forms.

(1) Sojdja s poezda, on tut že *vošel v telefonnuju budku.
(2) [*]Ona vnosit taz v kuxnju. – ‘She is taking the basin into the kitchen.’ ( with (2') as a counterpart
(2') Ona neset taz v kuxnju. – ‘She is taking the basin into the kitchen.’

Any motion has four components: source (S), path (P), goal (G), and figure (F). The parameters used in previous studies - deixis, focus, point of view, and knowledge - while sufficient for most English counterparts, such as (3) vs. (3') do not explain (1) and (2).

(3) She went into the room (said by a speaker outside the room) vs.
(3') She came into the room (said by a speaker inside the room).

In order to describe the spectrum of problems surrounding VOM with prefix V-, first of all one has to examine intransitive and transitive VOM separately, since they behave differently with respect to V-, just as they do with respect to the prefix OT- (otojti vs. otnesti). V- + VOM means ‘crossing the border’ and prior to the realization of V-+ VOM, F must be positioned at the border. In (1) such positioning has not been achieved, since the distance from the train to the phone booth has not been accounted for. The paper will show how distance is dealt with in discourse. English and Russian provide a different set of oppositions concomitant with the mention of the “barrier”, i.e. the door:

(4) He came in / went in / entered through the door.
(5) On vošel / zašel / prošel / *prišel v dver'.

The nature of the difference could be two-fold, depending on whose point of view is represented in (5): if another participant’s view of the event, it is the participants’s lack of knowledge or knowledge of the F accounts for vošel vs. zašel; if F’s point of view, the opposition correlates with F’s lack of knowledge or knowledge of the space he enters.
Viewed from inside, different variants of (6) describe different expectations on the part of the speaker as well as different assessments of the purpose of the incomer.

(6) Kto-to vošel / zašel / prišel.

The speaker’s need to have knowledge of the visitor also manifests itself in asking (7) in response to a knock in a private setting as opposed to no such such question and the blind response (8) in official settings.

(7) Kto tam?
(8) Vojdite!

To conclude, this paper will analyze the semantics and pragmatics of V-+ VOM in all of its complexity.